I have a special place in my heart for Delta – it was the first airline that I achieved any significant status on going from Silver to Diamond in the space of a few months. I found Delta to be really good for upgrades domestically as well as very nice customer service. Those things (as well as perks for Platinum and Diamond have made me keep Delta status for the last few years (even though I am no longer in the US).
Delta had recently announced changes, however, that will affect the way people earn Delta elite status beginning next year. Elite status used to be all about the amount of miles that you fly on that airline (or partners) in a calendar year. However, since the airlines have been selling the award miles (and elite miles) to the banks over the last several years, they have really become more like a co-business with the credit card companies – Delta/American Express for one. As a result of all of these airline miles being offered with credit cards, the airlines were eventually going to have to do something to streamline their elite systems again.
Enter spending requirements…
Delta News #1
Starting 2014, it will not be enough to just fly the required miles for elite status – you will also need to spend a certain amount of money on Delta tickets. And the required spending does not allow the inclusion of taxes and fees (which can make up a significant portion of the international ticket cost). What are the new required spending numbers?
[pullquote]So, for me to reach Platinum again next year, for example, I would still have to fly the 75,000 miles plus spend $7,500 on Delta flights (before taxes and fees).[/pullquote] In two years as Diamond and two years as Platinum, I did not spend $7,500 combined! There is no way that I am going to be able to do that. So, if I went ahead and flew the 75,000 miles and only spent $2,500 on Delta tickets, I would wind up as a Silver medallion. Not very good at all! Obviously, they are trying to cater their program more to their higher value customers (for example, a business class ticket from JFK-LAX one-way can cost $1,600!) rather than the flyer who is going for the cheapest flight and elite status.
Fortunately, they have kind of defined what they consider a high value customer by waiving the spend requirement for flyers who spend $25,000 or more on their Delta American Express card(s). That amount can be anything – it does not have to be just Delta flights. Since it is possible to earn elite miles through credit card spending anyway (which is what I did this year), that will not be a problem for those travelers who do that. For instance, the Delta American Express Reserve card awards 15,000 elite miles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and the Delta American Express Platinum card awards 10,000 elite miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year. So if you meet the $25,000 to waive the spending requirement, you will actually be earning 10,000 elite miles (or almost 15,000 elite miles) as well. Not bad if that is your earning strategy! While $25,000 sounds high (and is), it can be very easy to hit when using things like Bluebird for paying bills, taxes, transferring money, paying people, etc. My wife and I each have a Bluebird account, so we can buy $10,000 of reload cards to load each month. At that rate, it would only take 3 months to hit the spending requirement.
Delta News #2
The other Delta news for elites is actually not for Delta elites but for SPG Platinum elites. Back in March, Delta and SPG formed a partnership program called Crossover Awards. It was a way to reward the other’s program travelers when using each other. For instance, when the accounts are linked, you can earn SPG points when you purchase Delta tickets and vice versa. In addition, some low level recognition was to be given to the other program’s elite members. One of the largest of those perks was to allow SPG Platinum guests to receive upgrades on Delta. As of now, that is in effect.
The upgrade order puts SPG Platinums at the bottom below all the airline elites on the upgrade lists. This means that a SPG Platinum member should not expect to get an upgrade on most routes. However, some of the smaller markets should see them clearing for the upgrade with regularity. Everytime I fly Rochester – JFK, there are many empty first class seats. I was going to give my dad an upgrade one time when I was a Silver (no companion upgrades as Silver) when the gate agent just came over and gave us each first class seats! It is only 40 minutes, but still, nice!
So, if you have no elite status and are a SPG Platinum member, make sure you link your account to Delta and start looking for an upgrade in your future! Good news for SPG Platinums and really has no affect on Delta elites (thankfully!).
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